Casting Tune Up – “Stop That Rod!”

loading_the_rodThe trees are leafing out, the flowers are popping and spring time is around the corner. It’s about time to put away the shot and indicators and start thinking about throwing dries and soft hackles.

It’s funny, but I’m sort of a “stick to it” type of guy. This fall and winter I’ve been throwing nymphs and a few streamers with my switch rod and haven’t taken my dry rod out of its case but a couple of times. It’s been mainly nymphs under indicator or just with a tight line. Anyway you look at it, I’ve been “chucking lead”. I’m usually running three nymphs, and anyone that does much of this knows that if you don’t throw an open loop it’s going to be a real pain in the neck, literally.

So, I’ve got to make the transition to throwing dries and tighten up my loops and get the rust out of my presentation casting.

Anyone that fishes with me, knows that I’m like that guy that gets pulled over by the patrolman for not coming to a complete stop at the stop sign. My forward cast sort of just drifts though the stop. It always takes me a little time out on the lawn or on the river “Not Fishing” to get my loops tighter and my presentation casting in sink. It’s just not an automatic thing with me. I can get there, but I’ve got to put some work into it to get where it looks and feels like I know what I’m doing.

With this in mind, I recently read an article by Kirk Deeter and Charlie Meyers. They have just published a book titled “The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing”. It’s on my list for sure. The article was called “20 tips to help you cast Straighter, Longer and with more Accuracy”. I’ll give you a condensed version of some of their pointers. Maybe 10 instead of 20.

1. Dare To Be Different – Just because your casting style doesn’t look like your buddies, it’s not a problem. It just has to work for you, not anyone else. There are certain physical laws pertaining to loading and unloading the fly rod that must be adhered to, and the timing is critical, no matter what your stroke looks like. It’s the end result that counts.

2. It Starts With The Grip – If you have ever received lessons in golf, most swing flaws can be traced to your hands and how you hold the club. This holds true with your fly cast. You need a firm grip. The line goes where the rod tip goes. Burn this into your brain. Because of this, hold your thumb on top of the grip, and snap your casts, Visualize looking “through” your casting thumbnail, odds are that the line will unfurl right through that window.

3. Point Your Shots – As stated in (#2), the fly line and thus the fly follows the rod tip. Taking this one step further, the Rod Tip Follows the Thumb. So long as you keep your thumb (or index finger if you cast with it on top) pointed at the target your cast will go where you want it to go.

4. 10 and 2 is too little too late – As we have heard from the beginning of our fly casting learning curve, our cast is to be imagined as if your rod moves along an imaginary clock face, with the forward cast stopping at 10 o’clock, and the backcast stopping at 2 o’clock. In reality, when we start casting, we are pretty much oblivious to this imaginary clock. It is advised to instead change the time zones to one o’clock on the backcast. If you try changing your way of thinking to “10 to 1” you may have better luck.

5. Don’t get Cocky ( Your Wrist is what we’re talking about) – If you’re casting and you hear the noise of your line slapping the water behind you, it is often because your wrist is cocking too far back. As it relates to fly casting, the wrist versus arm equation is a difficult balance to master, let alone explain. Remember the arm is the engine, the wrist is the steering wheel. This pertains to aiming the cast, not powering the cast. Continuing the comparison to driving, if you let your wrist power your cast you will crash. A few simple fixes to help capture the right feel are; (a) Get a large rubber band, wrap it around your casting wrist, and then insert the rod butt inside that rubber band when you practice on the lawn. If you find that the rubber band is flexing too much, odds are you are breaking your wrist too far. (b) If you are wearing a long sleeve shirt, tuck the reel butt inside your cuff. This can really sharpen up and help you regain your stoke.

6. Stop!… For Good Cast – Like I mentioned, this tip seems like it is shouting out to me. Often a little voice in my head says “What’s so important about stopping the rod anyway?” This is what’s up. Always remember that the stop is the key component, the one that makes all casting motion work. A good cast is built by gradually accelerating the rod forward, and stopping it precisely, then changing directions and gradually accelerating the rod backwards, and stopping it again to change course. If you don’t stop the rod crisply on the forward and backward strokes – if you just slush your way forward and back (wait a minute. Have you been watching me?) with no precise rhyme or reason – you can not load the rod. Your cast will droop, sag, flutter and die. The stop is as important a concern as any motion or power in your cast. Moral of this story. Stop with authority, forward and back, and you will cast farther straighter and more accurately. Amen!

7. Hitting the Wall – This one’s for me, being a carpenter for most of my life. Think about a hammer and a nail when loading and unloading your rod. Imagine yourself between two walls, with nails on both. Using a two headed hammer, pretend to smack the nails, first on the back cast, and again when the hand comes forward. Each time you hit the wall the hammer stops cold. This is the stop motion that in fly casting causes the rod to unload briskly. In you stop cold, the line will shoot forward powerfully, with a tight loop. If you don’t stop hard and slush your rod through the stop, the line loses speed and distance and the loop will open up, making it susceptible to wind. To get full power from your rod, hit the nail on the head. So, I’ve got a new mantra. “Nail on head, nail on head…..”

8. Watch that thumb – Another trick to help you stop the rod in the correct position, is to keep your casting thumb in your peripheral vision at all times. Lose sight of your thumb, and your going back too far. Simple as that!

9. Throw a drink in my face – A good description of the gradual, controlled acceleration motion, that is the foundation of any good fly cast was offered by casting legend Steve Rajeff. Imagine throwing a glass of water toward another person. You don’t just chuck it. You lift it off the table, accelerate as you aim and then stop suddenly to let the liquid fly. Imagine that when you make you cast.

10. Say Hello to good casting – Here is another tip to get used to starting and stopping the rod at the correct angles. Imagine you’re using an old wall telephone, standing a couple of feet away. Say hello when you bring your rod hand smartly back beside your ear, keeping your arm perpendicular, and then whisper goodbye as the phone returns to the cradle. Again, perform this with crisp stops and starts.

I know what I’ll be whispering to myself when I go to sleep tonight “Stop that rod… Stop that Rod…”